Nigeria arrests Bayelsa governor
A Nigerian state governor who was charged with money laundering in the UK has been impeached and arrested in his oil-rich home state of Bayelsa.

Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was detained by police after losing the immunity from prosecution that he enjoyed in office.

He has always said he is innocent of charges that he laundered £1.8m ($3.2m) found in cash and bank accounts.

The BBC's Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar in Yenagoa says there is a heavy security presence on the streets of the city.

The governor is being held at the police headquarters, he says.

Everyone wants him
EFCC's Osita Nwajah

Seventeen out of the state assembly's 24 members voted in favour of impeachment.

Before the vote, the speaker said the governor had not responded in anyway to the notice of his impeachment made more than two weeks ago.

On the run

"The cover of immunity has been taken away from him by the impeachment. We are going to move in immediately and arrest him," Osita Nwajah, spokesman for Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) told AFP.

"The man has several cases against him. Everyone wants him," he said.

Mr Alamieyeseigha is facing allegations of fraud by a special anti-corruption court sitting in the northern city of Kaduna.

He is also on the run from the UK authorities after he jumped bail last month in London, where he has been charged with money laundering.

Nigerian officials said Mr Alamieyeseigha left Britain disguised in women's clothing, although he has denied this.

Last week, he was suspended from the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP).

Mr Alamieyeseigha has told the BBC that the $3.2m found in London does not belong to him.

He said the charges against him were politically motivated.

President Olusegun Obasanjo set up the EFCC anti-corruption body in order to fight fraud in a country ranked as one of the most corrupt in the world.

But his critics say the anti-corruption drive is bring used to eliminate political rivals.

Mr Alamieyeseigha is seen as being close to Vice-President Atiku Abubakar - who is vying with Mr Obasanjo for control of the PDP.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/12/09 12:05:05 GMT


British court declares Alamieyeseigha wanted
Friday , December 9, 2005
Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha has been declared wanted by the Southwark Crown Court in London, with a warrant of arrest issued on him.
Alamieyeseigha had escaped to Nigeria on November 16, apparently to evade criminal trial after the appellate court granted him bail, which enabled him to leave Brixton prison in the British capital on October 13 after a two-week detention. He had been remanded in prison custody by the magistrate court where he is standing trial for money laundering.
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in its reaction to the warrant issued on the embattled governor applauded the decision, but notable lawyers, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Fred Agbaje argued that Alamieyeseigha cannot be arrested on Nigerian soil as long as he remains in office.
The Bayelsa governor's matter came up yesterday before Justice Rivlin.
The judge ordered for his arrest by the Metropolitan Police, but the warrant cannot be effected until the governor either resigns or is impeached.
Already, an impeachment process has been initiated by the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, and a seven-man panel constituted by the state Chief Judge, Justice Joel Igoniwari to investigate sundry allegations of financial misdemeanour which the EFCC preferred against the governor.
EFCC spokesman, Osita Nwajah in a telephone chat with Daily Sun last night described the issuance of warrant of arrest on Alamieyeseigha as indicating commitment of the British government to the fight against corruption.
He said the British government "has done its own part of the job. We are happy that the rule of law is taking its course."

Nwajah also noted that the development was a good step in the fight against corruption, adding that "it has lightened our burden."
Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) and Fred Agbaje who also spoke to Daily Sun yesterday said the Bayelsa governor still enjoys immunity from arrest and prosecution provided by Section 308 of the Constitution.
According to Fawehinmi, "Section 308 is a major impediment to execution of the warrant of arrest issued by the court. It cannot be effected on Nigeria soil. It could only be efficacious if he is impeached. This is why the Bayelsa State House of Assembly should not waste time in completing the impeachment process so that the man could be bundled back to the United Kingdom to face his trial."
In the same vein, Agbaje also said no one can touch the governor unless he is impeached or he travels out of the country.
"His immunity remains intact and the warrant of arrest cannot be effected until he is impeached," the notable lawyer argued.
Alamieyeseigha was arrested at the Heathrow Airport on September 15 on his arrival in London from Germany, where he had gone for medical treatment. After his arrest a search was conducted on his home and £1 million cash was said to have been found. The sums of £429,000 and £470,000 were also found lodged in separate bank accounts belonging to him, besides assets worth £10 million, all of which have been confiscated by the police.
The discoveries by the police prompted his being charged to court for money laundering to the tune of £1.8 million.
British govt gives condition for return of Bayelsa gov's money
Friday , December 9, 2005
The British government has said it will return the money and assets of embattled Bayelsa State Governor Diepreye Alamieyesegha to Nigeria upon a request from the Federal Government but on the condition that Abuja produces proof of evidence that it is stolen money.
In a telephone interview with Daily Sun, British High Commission spokesman, Neil Angell, who spoke from Abuja said, "The Nigerian government would have to prove that it is stolen money." He said that the British government has no special interest in the money and assets of the governor, rather it is only interested in seeing that Alamieyesegha "stand trial for the alleged offence of money laundering committed in the UK."
Angell was emphatic when he said that Alamieyesegha would still face trial in London even if he is tried and punished in Nigeria. On the possibility of Alamieyesegha returning to London to face trial, Angell said every effort would be made to extradite the governor. He however said it is the responsibility of the London Metropolitan Police and the British judiciary to set in motion the process of making formal request to the Nigerian government for Alamieyesegha's extradition.
There has been speculation of mutual suspicion between Nigeria and Britain over the fate of the governor. Sources close to the government say that Abuja is expressing fear that if returned to London, Alamieyesegha will not be imprisoned. Rather, he may enter a plea-bargain that may earn him only a forfeiture of his assets.
But Angell said this is not true though "British government was not in a position to comment on the fate of the governor." He explained that it is the London Metropolitan Police and the British judiciary that are in a position to decide the fate of the governor based on the charges brought against him in court. Angell dismissed as not true speculations that there was foul play on the part of the British government in the escape of the governor from London.
Asked to comment on why British banks accept large sums of money from the likes of Alamieyesegha, Angell said British banks operate Western Money Transfer but within the country's banking regulatory laws. Angell believes the banks did not commit any offence for accepting money from the governor. Could the banks have reported the governor to the police authorities? Angell said, "No." But he was quick to give insight into how British authorities are able to monitor financial crime. He said that the banks in Britain report to the government any lodgment above £10,000 at every given time.